Tenjho Tenge Vol. #01 (Mania.com)
Review Date: Monday, March 07, 2005
Release Date: Tuesday, February 01, 2005
Translated by:Sheldon Drzka
What They Say
In a school dominated by ruthless martial arts teams, one rogue club must fight the odds to stay alive! At the toughest high school in Tokyo, only the strong survive. In one unusual school, education takes a back seat to brawling, as warring clubs wreak havok in the hallways and chaos in the classrooms, all in a bid to be the coolest club in school! Although they often contribute their fair share of chaos, only one group of students stems the tide of violence in this untamed outpost: the Juken Club!
Considering the unrelenting sex and violence fest that Tenjho Tenge is, fans were very interested in how DC Comic's manga imprint CMX would handle this title. Unfortunately, their answer appears to censor it. The first sign of trouble is right on the front cover. Although the original art featuring Nagi and Bob with Aya in the foreground is used, the English logo is displayed in such a way as to cover up Aya's panty shot. The back cover is much like the Japanese original, with a black and white image of Maya, though it's on the left side rather than the right. The trouble is the teen rating given this most assuredly non-teen-appropriate book.
Inside things start well, with the first four pages in color as well as the full-color foldout of Aya all retained. Sadly, art reproduction was quite bad in several places.
Oh! great is a master of violent and erotic art. His Silky Whip hentai collections have already been published in the US by Fantagraphics' Eros Comix imprint. He draws amazingly lush women and powerful men. Fight scenes are dynamic and flow around the page in a swirl of dramatic tension. Unfortunately, that's where the good ends. CMX edited the length and breadth of the book, censoring out anything they felt was questionable for a teen audience. Clothing is drawn on characters to remove nudity. Panels are cropped and zoomed to remove nudity. Characters are completely removed from panels to remove nudity. Word balloons are repositioned to cover up nudity. A swastika was blurred out. A middle finger was removed. English sound effects are placed over panty shots. Nothing escaped CMX's censorship pen. I counted well over 30 edits before losing count. Outrageously, there is a quote on the back page of the book that states "No artwork has been reversed or altered, so you can read the stories the way the creators wanted them to be read." This is then followed by a note from the editors claiming "We have worked closely with the author and original publisher to prepare this American edition according to Oh! great's wishes. The author approved limited revisions in order to make his work more accessible to a wider American audience." As the first comment is patently untrue, it's hard to place any credence on the second statement. Futhermore, these aren't "limited revisions." This is the most heavily censored manga title I have ever read.
The adaptation of the script is surprisingly free of excessive street slang. It mostly reads smoothly and naturally. A rape of a character seems surprisingly glossed over in later chapters. My Japanese isn't good enough to know if this is how it was written by Oh! great or if it was a decision by CMX to downplay it. Names are written in the Japanese fashion, family names first, given names second. Sound effects are translated on the page, occasionally next to the Japanese sound effects, occasionally taking their place, and occasionally used to cover up nudity or panty shots. On pages 12 and 13, we see Aya cutting falling flower petals with her sword. A "tng" sound effect was added to each sword strike, despite the fact there weren't any sound effects there in the first place.
Contents: (please note that content portions of a review may contain spoilers)
Takayanagi is a young student at Todo Gakuen High School. He belongs to the Juken Club, which only has two other members. Despite looking like a grade schooler, Maya is a third year student and may be the most powerful fighter in the school. New member Aya is Maya's two years younger sister, a voluptuous but slightly ditzy student brand new to the school. Two young first year brawlers come into school looking to make a name for themselves; Soichiro Nagi, a slight but powerful and cocky young man, and Bob Makihara, a tall dreadlocked black fighter. Aya stops the fight when she reveals her true form, which is, like her sister, that of a staggeringly beautiful sexy bombshell of a woman. Unfortunately, Takayanagi falls in love with and gets his heart broken by Aya in the course of a couple of hours when she decides to fall in love with Nagi. He gets a chance to take his frustration out on Nagi when Nagi challenges him to a fight. The fight proves to both Bob and Nagi that they have a lot to learn.
The high school's Third Year Executive Committee has decided that a punishment of Bob and Nagi is in order, but the enforcer they send takes things too far in a scene of brutal violence against an innocent third party. Bob, Nagi and Aya all fail miserably in a fight against him, which leads to some serious soul searching. But in the end, Bob and Nagi decide to become stronger rather than running away.
Tenjho Tenge is an unrelentingly violent martial arts title with sex scattered left right and center. With the constant sexual violence against women as one of it's central themes, it may well be one of the most misogynistic titles in recent memory. While the story is fairly formulaic, Oh! great's exceptional art is more than enough for most manga fans to pick it up. With its popularity in Japan, it's no surprise it was licensed for sale in the US. What is surprising and disturbing is CMX's decision to take a title that is fundamentally not suitable for teens, and force a teen rating on it. I've been a manga fan for 18 years, and I can't find a single book in my 1000+ manga collection that is as heavily censored as Tenjho Tenge. What is equally inexplicable is that CMX has a Mature rating they could have given this title, but decided not to. When a publisher claims to offer "pure manga — 100% the way the original Japanese creators want you to see it" and then produces possibly the most heavily censored title in the history of the North American manga industry, there is an obvious credibility issue.
This is a terrible release created from an unconscionable marketing decision, and it's an enormously disppointing way for CMX to debut on the manga scene.
Mania Grade: C+
Art Rating: A/F
Packaging Rating: F
Text/Translatin Rating: C
Age Rating: 13 & Up
Released By: CMX
Orientation: Right to Left